How to manage negative employees

Negative employees can drag down the morale of your whole team, impacting productivity and team spirit, and even leading to increased absenteeism and low retention rates.

This makes it important to take early action with negative employees to turn their attitude around and maintain a strong sense of optimism before their negativity spreads across the broader team.

Look at the reasons for negative employees

A negative outlook shouldn’t simply be waived away. We all have the occasional bad day at work but prolonged negative behavior needs to be investigated.

There can be valid reasons why employees are negative. They may not clearly understand the tasks they are working on, or they may feel their skills are inadequate to accomplish a high standard of output.

This makes it essential to take the time to speak with negative employees. Listen to their concerns – you may be able to remedy issues with a few simple changes in your workplace.

Focus on positive contributions

All employees enjoy receiving positive feedback, and rewarding good behaviour can reinforce your expectations of a positive attitude. Let negative employees know when they have done a good job, and explain that you value their efforts. This can encourage positive workplace behaviour.

Be quite specific about what the employee did well and how it contributed to the success of the company, be it through securing a new customer, saving money or helping to grow market share.

Remember to spread your praise evenly. High performing staff who maintain an upbeat outlook are also deserving of encouraging feedback.

Model the sort of attitude you expect

Negative employees can cast a cloud over your entire team, draining everyone’s energy and undermining team spirit. Leaders however demonstrate by example, and this makes it critical for you to maintain an upbeat “can-do” approach yourself.

Aiming to model a positive outlook means not becoming involved in office gossip or back-stabbing, which will only serve to create an atmosphere of distrust in the workplace.

Provide ample opportunities for development and career growth

Employees can start to become negative if they feel your organisation offers limited opportunities for growth and career development. Review the progress of any negative employees, and consider if they could benefit from mentoring, professional workshops – or from being rotated across other tasks to provide a break from the daily routine.

Provide clear feedback

Negative employees need to understand how their attitude is impacting your whole team, and this can only be done through clear, but tactful, feedback. Employees don’t always realise that their behaviour is causing problems, so be gentle rather than accusatory. Taking an aggressive approach may encourage negative employees to become defensive.

Explain that they are a valued member of the team but be quite specific that their attitude is impacting the team as a whole. Ask how you can offer support, but firmly explain the consequences if their attitude doesn’t take a turn for the better.

Taking the time to understand the reasons behind negative employees, and offering support, encouragement and a range of practical solutions, can transform your workplace into a highly productive and optimistic environment.

Negative employees can drag down the morale of your whole team, impacting productivity and team spirit, and even leading to increased absenteeism and low retention rates.

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